Posts filed under skin tone

I AM SHAUN KING. Question Him. Question Me.

I Am Shaun King. Question him. Question me. Question every light-skinned African American you see. I’m sure you might learn some enlightening HISTORY.

I Am Shaun King.

Wow! I can‘t believe this. For a few days I’ve been following all of the media craziness surrounding my good friend Shaun King. Shaun is an outspoken activist whose race has been recently questioned. Is he black? Is he white? Is he a race fraud? Did he lie to get a scholarship? Is he Rachel 2.0?

Ever since the Rachel Dolezal ordeal I cannot count how many times I, myself, have been jokingly asked:

1.     Can you show me your race card?

2.     Let me see your birth certificate?

3.     Who are your parents, really?

4.     Are you really black?

5.     I’ve always wondered about you…

Shaun and I went to Morehouse College together. We were members of the largest class to ever enter this historic HBCU. I still remember meeting Shaun for the first time. He shook my hand, looked into my eyes and said ‘hello brother’ with the quiet confidence and energy that one would expect from a world leader. Literally, from the instant I made his acquaintance I knew this man was destined for greatness. He was special and I knew it. Shaun and I shared something unique.  It was something I wrote about in my 50 Shades of Black (Volume I) story titled, “Red Bone with Blue Eyes.”  My story in 50 Shades of Black reignites the issues I had growing up as a light-skinned African American child. Some of these painful memories I had repressed for many years.

 

My daughter Addison is a spitting image of me as a child. She is called “beautiful” on a daily basis. Thirty years ago my look was called, “weird.”  Growing up in Pensacola, FL during the 80’s and 90’s I was the victim of constant verbal abuse and often provoked into fights. I had to prove my blackness to my own African American community. Yes, I was a pretty popular kid. That’s how most of my classmates probably remember me, but there was a part of my life, my horror, lurking in the shadows. I remember waiting for the bus after school and receiving a tip that I was about to get ambushed. For a while I started sneaking to get on the bus first so that I would not be subjected to hateful words or bullying.  A student once cornered me in the bathroom with a knife. Many of my friends (lets just call some of them acquaintances) would say to me that I thought I was better than them because I was lighter...that I thought I was more intelligent...that I was the teacher’s favorite because of my skin. I was called a reverse Oreo cookie just because of my appearance and because I had friends of all races.

 

The verbal abuse did not end with kids from school; there were adults that took part in this foolishness as well. “That can’t be your dad? What are you? Where did you come from? What’s wrong with your hair? I wish I had your fair skin color. You’re going to make some pretty babies one day.”  A lot of this pain led to my search for a racial identity. It has shaped the person I am today and the sensitivity I have as a photographer.

 

Photo of Shaun King by Ross Oscar Knight

Photo of Shaun King by Ross Oscar Knight

In August 2008, I photographed Shaun. He needed portfolio images to use for his ministry, The Courageous Church, as well as other endeavors. We shared stories about Morehouse, our family, and our future. It was like we were two brothers plotting a world takeover. Since then, Shaun has supported all of my international trips and in 2010, he gave me the opportunity to visit Haiti. My images of Shaun and his projects have been used around the world in magazines/books and on television.

 

I know Shaun as an honest person who stops at nothing to help people (cue hopemob.com). You can’t hold him back from achievement. That only fuels his passion to make a greater difference in the world. He has constantly used his voice and influence for justice. He has risked his life to create positive change. He doesn’t just start conversations about race; he is the conversation about race. 


"He doesn't just start conversations about race; he is the conversation about race."


Ever since his involvement in the #blacklivesmatter movement, he has been under constant scrutiny. He is facing a character assassination in the media. His race and his intentions have been taken into question. I know him and I’m just not having that!!

Although he didn’t have to respond to the attacks, Shaun decided to explain his painfully private story:

Race, love, hate, and me: A distinctly American story

 

I Am Shaun King. Question him. Question me. Question every light-skinned African American you see. I’m sure you might learn some enlightening HISTORY.

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50 Shades of Black examines the complex role Sexuality and Skin Tone play in the formation of Identity.

 

Ross Oscar Knight is a photo-culturalist,  Owner of Ross Oscar Knight Photography, and Co-Director of 50 Shades of Black

Posted on August 21, 2015 and filed under current events, Identity, personal stories, press, race, skin tone.

TAXI! -On Being a Black Woman Catching a Cab Ride In Cuba

Photos and Text by The Travel Guru

Photos and Text by The Travel Guru

Click to Enlarge

hen I travel I am always surprised at how safe I feel. I have traveled all over the world by myself and for the most part, have always felt safe when walking down the street. I was recently in Havana, Cuba and from  American news outlets I’ve heard all of my life that Cuba is a place where I should have been scared. However, my black skin was well received and I was treated with dignity and respect by all I met.

Traveling to a country where your color isn’t a factor in how you are treated is an amazing feeling. When I was in Havana the blackness of my skin wasn’t an issue. From the moment I walked out of the airport until the moment I left I felt as ease. There was never a moment where I was reminded that my blackness was considered inferior. I am in no way saying Havana doesn’t have racial issues because they do. Many dark skinned Cubans have a much harder time than their light skinned brothers and sisters but as an American, my Black skin wasn’t a factor.

Sometimes when I travel I don’t realize how much my race is a factor in America until I leave and visit a country where I’m celebrated and appreciated. Being able to walk down the street and not feel judged is freeing in ways unimaginable. Getting most of my information from American news, Havana has been vilified. It has been portrayed as this evil third world place that no one should dare visit. However, my experience was the complete opposite. Seeing people all around me with the varied hues of blackness was refreshing. Hearing the first foreign language I learned being spoken daily put a smile on my face that hardly ever left. For me, my blackness in Havana was empowering. Even though the city is poor, the feeling of having my skin valued and not questioned made me feel rich in ways unimaginable.

One example of how my blackness wasn’t an issue and safety not a concern was when I was coming home from a night on the town. I was hanging out with some of my Black American friends and we got into a taxi, there were 5 of us. I was staying in a different part of town so one of my girlfriends said, “Roni, we will drop you off first so you don’t have to be alone.” Because I had felt so safe in Havana I didn’t think it was necessary but I wanted to appease my friends so I agreed. When I told the light skinned driver in Spanish that I wanted to be dropped off first he said that wasn’t the best way and he was going to drop them off first. I told him my friends were concerned with my safety and the look he gave me was one of incredulity. He merely waved his hand and said in Spanish, “What’s gonna happen?” When he took me to my apartment he waited until I got into my door before he drove off.  The thought of harming me or that harm could come to me didn’t even seem to be part of his psyche and the cab ride was easy which isn’t always the case as a Black woman trying to catch a cab in America.  Again, I am in no way saying Havana doesn’t have issues with skin color but from my perspective as an American visiting, I felt welcomed and free which is always liberating. 

-The Travel Guru

My name is Roni Faida (pronounced fie-e-da) I'm a former tour guide and a trilingual travel expert who is now traveling for fun and sharing my adventures and advice with you.

www.the-travel-guru.com

>> AND Join the Travel Guru here on 50 Shades of Black Blog for reflections on race, culture, adventures from around the world from the perspective of a black woman. 

Posted on July 27, 2015 and filed under personal stories, race, skin tone, travel.

BLACK. SELF. LOVE. - Just Because I Love Me, Doesn't Mean I Hate You

50 Shades of Black newest blogger Nina Brewton.  Photo by Chris Charles (Creative Silence)

50 Shades of Black newest blogger Nina Brewton.  Photo by Chris Charles (Creative Silence)

“Just because I love me,

doesn't mean I hate you.”

These are words that I’ve tried to express the majority of my 35 years of life. First, as a teenager coming of age in the small city of Wichita, KS, that state’s largest “metropolitan” area yet, behind the progressive curve in regards to…well, everything it seems.

Early on I embraced my dark skin and hair

Early on I embraced my dark skin and hair

I’ve always adored my brown skin. Spending summer days soaking up every ray of sunshine I could trying to match my father’s rich, dark chocolate melanin. By the time I was fifteen, I finally began to love the other staple of my Blackness – my thick, nappy, Afro, outstretched, reaching for the sun. With this newfound boldness came a love for everything Black that many in my predominately Caucasian community weren’t quite prepared for. Including my own bi-racial mother who ethnically leaned more towards the white side of town.

My pro-Blackness intimidating to those who refused to understand why I insisted on reading Black, buying Black and dating Black: Embracing and uplifting Black.

Even now, all these years later as I voice my views on the state of race relations in America, having experienced racial profiling and harassment by white law enforcement officers, boutique employees and timid teachers myself, many don’t get it. And many more don’t care to. So many don’t understand that the concept of Black love does not equal Black supremacy or hatred for anyone who isn’t “one of us”. 

Learning these truths, I quickly got over the feeling of needing to make people understand my point of view and the experiences that created it. My heart broken and last nerve plucked trying to get others to just see the world the way I see it. Consider my way of thinking and to just have a little…empathy.


Truth is, when we love others, we'll find that we love ourselves more. It really is a continual cycle of everything that Love is. Embrace you and embrace the world. This is how lives are changed and how we make the greatest impact on the world we live in. -Nina Brewton


As I continue to grow and become more comfortable with who I am as an individual and who I am in this world and the various hamlets that I find myself a part of, I can say with every bit of confidence that, “I love you…I just love me more.”

As an individual, I’m committed to shining my Light on the world and truly loving others the way that I want to be loved. I am determined to teach others how to love me by loving me first.

What I know for sure: We shine brightest in our own house before illuminating the world around us. Love begins at home, with self. Home is where the flame is rekindled, giving us what we need to feel confident enough to approach the darkness of the world with every beam of light that is within us. As long as our hearts intention is towards loving others, we can love ourselves all we need.

Truth is, when we love others, we'll find that we love ourselves more. It really is a continual cycle of everything that Love is. Embrace you and embrace the world. This is how lives are changed and how we make the greatest impact on the world we live in.

---

Nina Brewton is the newest member of the 50 Shades of Black Blog.  Visit each week for her insights into womanhood, spirituality, black identity, and inspiration.

Visit her on her website baldheadqueen.com

Posted on June 3, 2015 and filed under blog, Identity, personal stories, race, skin tone.

Black Beauty: Miss Universe Japan Winner Faces Challenges

Ariana Miyamoto by   KO SASAKI FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES

Ariana Miyamoto by KO SASAKI FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES

Excerpt from NYT article By MARTIN FACKLER

In school, she said, other children and even parents called her “kurombo,” the Japanese equivalent of the N-word. Classmates did not want to hold her hand for fear her color would rub off on them.

“I used to come home angry at my mother,” Ms. Miyamoto recalled. “I’d ask her, ‘Why did you make me so different?’ ”

She said everything changed at age 13 when she decided to reach out to her father, who invited her to his home in Jacksonville, Ark. She said she will never forget the moment she first saw her father and his relatives.

“They had the same skin and the same face as me,” she said. “For the first time, I felt normal.”

She said that in the United States, she came to speak of herself as black. But here in Japan, she still calls herself hafu. As Miss Universe Japan, she has played down her African-American roots, presenting herself instead as a representative of ethnically mixed Japanese from all backgrounds.

NEW YORK TIMES Complete Article

 


Video and text from Bloomberg

The importance of racial purity held by some Japanese is codified in a genre of writing called nihonjinron, or theories of Japaneseness. 

“If there hadn’t been this kind of criticism, there would be no point in me competing,” she said, with no trace of bitterness. “I don’t want to ignore it. I want to change those people’s attitudes.”

Posted on May 31, 2015 and filed under Identity, personal stories, race, religion and culture, skin tone.

FINDING MY QUEENDOM

For twenty years of my life, I did not know who I was. For twenty years I was seeking the one who I wanted the most, myself. It was my sophomore year in college when I went on my spiritual journey and found who I truly am. I found the light within me. I lost people along the way, but it was for the best because in order for me to grow, I had to leave behind those who was not a good factor in my life. I was mocked, I was teased, I was talked about but I did not care because at the end of the day, I was happy. And your happiness is the most important thing ever in life. I do not seek the approval of society to be myself. I love that I'm different. I love that I stand out. I love the beautiful brown skin that I'm in. Along my journey I learned to love myself. I learned that we are Kings and Queens. I learned to always walk with my head held up high and let the Sun Goddess beam her rays on my beautiful crown. I learned to love and appreciate my brown skin. When I was younger I wanted to be white because I grew up in an area where it was very few black people. I wanted to have blonde hair and blue eyes. But when I found myself, I was like "what the heck was I thinking?" I love the kinks in my thick black hair. I love my brown eyes. I love my full lips. I love the rich history of my people. I love my melanin and I would not give that up for anything. I love my shade. My shade is beautiful. It's powerful beyond anything in this world. I love when I'm out and I see my fellow Kings and Queens and their melanin skin just glowing as I walk pass them. Don't hide who you are or where you came from. Embrace it because it makes you who you are. Love yourself, respect yourself, educate yourself. And always remember we come from royalty so you are naturally a King/Queen. Peace & Love to you all.     Kadijah Wright     ------    BRIDGING THE GAP: Contemporary Realities, Our Ancestral Past, & Our Liberated Future    This is from our personal story series curated by the creator of   50 Shades of BLACK  , in partnership with   I Love Ancestry   featuring contemporary stories of people like YOU from around the world.    We personally invite you to join us on this journey of discovery and healing. Share your stories, find your voice, speak your truths.    >>  SHARE YOUR STORY  <<

For twenty years of my life, I did not know who I was. For twenty years I was seeking the one who I wanted the most, myself. It was my sophomore year in college when I went on my spiritual journey and found who I truly am. I found the light within me. I lost people along the way, but it was for the best because in order for me to grow, I had to leave behind those who was not a good factor in my life. I was mocked, I was teased, I was talked about but I did not care because at the end of the day, I was happy. And your happiness is the most important thing ever in life. I do not seek the approval of society to be myself. I love that I'm different. I love that I stand out. I love the beautiful brown skin that I'm in. Along my journey I learned to love myself. I learned that we are Kings and Queens. I learned to always walk with my head held up high and let the Sun Goddess beam her rays on my beautiful crown. I learned to love and appreciate my brown skin. When I was younger I wanted to be white because I grew up in an area where it was very few black people. I wanted to have blonde hair and blue eyes. But when I found myself, I was like "what the heck was I thinking?" I love the kinks in my thick black hair. I love my brown eyes. I love my full lips. I love the rich history of my people. I love my melanin and I would not give that up for anything. I love my shade. My shade is beautiful. It's powerful beyond anything in this world. I love when I'm out and I see my fellow Kings and Queens and their melanin skin just glowing as I walk pass them. Don't hide who you are or where you came from. Embrace it because it makes you who you are. Love yourself, respect yourself, educate yourself. And always remember we come from royalty so you are naturally a King/Queen. Peace & Love to you all.

Kadijah Wright

------

BRIDGING THE GAP: Contemporary Realities, Our Ancestral Past, & Our Liberated Future

This is from our personal story series curated by the creator of 50 Shades of BLACK, in partnership with I Love Ancestry featuring contemporary stories of people like YOU from around the world.

We personally invite you to join us on this journey of discovery and healing. Share your stories, find your voice, speak your truths.

>>SHARE YOUR STORY<<

Posted on February 19, 2015 and filed under Identity, personal stories, race, skin tone.

I Am No One's Nigger

To say it’s been an emotional few weeks would be an understatement considering that two police officers just went unpunished by our justice system for the murders of Mike Brown and Eric Garner. With all of this racial tension in the air and protests galore going strong in cities across the nation, it’s become a tense and difficult time in America to be black.

In the thick of all of this chaos, I’ve had many a conversation about race relations and politics, including one particularly salient conversation with my father about racialized trigger words for black people, specifically the word nigger. My father, who is now in his 60s, told me about some of the times in his life where white people have called him a nigger, whether to hurt him or prove they were somehow “down.” And he shared with me that he had to learn for himself that he couldn’t allow that word to trigger his rage because it wasn’t worth it to lose his freedom, his dignity or his life fighting the world over a word that did not define him. And he advised me to do the same to keep my sanity and my freedom.

Being an 80s baby, I’ve only ever been called a nigga by white guys who thought, in this so-called post-racial world, that it was okay now to say nigga because we were friends - emphasis on were. For me, I’d been lucky not to have been called that word in a hateful manner.

However, I got a rude awakening about how the racism of America can easily hit home last week when I had an unforgettable run-in with a racist man on the road.

While driving through Roswell in search of a Chase bank, I accidentally cut off a white man on the road behind me from making a turn before me. He immediately began honking his horn and when the oncoming traffic had cleared for me to make my turn, he sped past me, took the turn first, and shot a bird at me while mouthing fuck you. 

Sadly, it doesn't end there. After we both turned into the shopping complex, he drove to a stop sign 100 feet away from me, jumped out of his car and yelled "FUCK YOU!! FUCK YOU NIGGER!! FUCK YOU!!" at me at the top of his lungs. He yelled so loudly that I heard him clear as day with my windows rolled up. 

The entire time I looked him in his face and saw nothing but sheer hate and rage as he hurled "NIGGER" at me like it was a barbed whip and he wanted to see my blood spill and splash to the ground - The look in his eyes told me that he wanted me dead. He wanted me to not exist anymore, as if I was the thing in his life that was causing him so much pain.

Unfortunately for him, the turn was just a turn, nothing more. The moment was unimportant and his rage was unwarranted. I had nothing to do with his rage. He was angry before he even came across my little Civic. He was a fucked up individual long before the day we crossed paths....and in the words of Kermit the Frog, that wasn't none of my business.

I wanted nothing to do with any fight, any chaos or any life-threatening brawl over something so small and petty. So, instead of hopping out of my car and confronting the racist, I simply shrugged my shoulders and arms in front of his face and drove off to his destination.

if being a nigger is such an evil and vile thing, then it that moment I wasn't the one who was being a nigger. I was a black man looking for a bank who made a simple driving error in a place that I'd never driven to before. I wasn't looking for any trouble, nor was I going to entertain it. He on the other hand was an angry man looking for trouble who was willing to disturb the peace, harass and insult me all over the most minor of annoyances.

According to "The Boondocks," that kind of attitude is what leads to so-called "Nigga moments"

It wasn't my black ass that was acting like a angry, violent fool. Instead, it was a cowardly, racist older white man who was acting like a so-called "nigga/nigger" that day.

It's sad that in these modern times young black people still have to deal with the racism that our foremothers and forefathers fought so hard to erase, and it's even sadder that the world still sees people of darker skin as worthless niggers who deserve any kind of inhumane treatment just for breathing...or taking cutting them off on the road. 

It shouldn't be that way....and there shouldn't be any one who is thought of or called a nigger. There shouldn't be anyone who is treated as less than human. 

But that's not the world we live in right now. Thankfully, I didn't forget the lessons of my father and so many of my black ancestors taught me about how to deal with racists and their hate. I didn't forget that I am Nicholas Robinson, not some so-called nigger, not some word that has nothing to do with my character, my body or my spirit.

I am no one's nigger.

 

Nicholas Harbor

Freelance Journalist, storyteller and blogger for 50 Shades of BLACK

www.nicholasharbor.com

www.facebook.com/NicholasHarborOfficial

www.twitter.com/Nicholas_Harbor

Posted on December 10, 2014 and filed under activism, race, skin tone, personal stories.

The Mike Brown Murder: Do Our Black Lives Really Matter In America?

Honestly, it came as no shock to me that police officer Darren Wilson was not indicted in the shooting death of Ferguson, Missouri teen Mike Brown.

From the violent reaction that Ferguson officials had towards protestors to the shady way they handled evidence in the case and even the way the media tried to vilify Mike and spare Darren's dignity, all signs pointed to the imminent result that Darren would walk away a free man

And how could be I surprised? History has shown me so many times that when any white person or person of fair skin kills a black person, the lighter person is usually some brave, heroic soul doing his or her job to defend their self against the evil dark black people

That's exactly how it played out when police officers in Staten Island thought it okay to choke Eric Garner to death back in July. That's exactly how it played out when police officers shot and murdered John Crawford for holding a toy gun in Walmart. And that's exactly how it played out when George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin after claiming that the young boy looked suspicious as he walked home from a trip to the store.

Even if they aren't killing us, they're vilifying us with the same laws that they use to protect themselves when killing us. Marissa Alexander used a firearm to fend off her abusive husband, and though her act of defense should rightfully have fallen under the Stand Your Ground law that allowed Zimmerman to walk free after murdering Martin, Alexander has spent over 1,000 days in jail and recently had to take a plea deal in order to bring a swifter end to her legal ordeal.

And to add insult to injury, in each one of these situations the media said the same negative things about the victims: "Their hands weren't clean anyway," "They were no angel," "They were still criminals," "They brought it on themselves." Because in the eyes of the media, all black people deserve to be treated violently because we are inherently evil. We are niggers, you know.

So why should I be shocked that Wilson would go free for murdering Brown? Why should I be surprised that, once again, America has proven that our black lives have no value or worth?

Instead, what I feel is the same thing I've felt my entire life: disappoint, anger and terror.

Living in this country as a black person must be one of the most mind-blowing and insane forms of existence because unlike our fairer skinned brothers and sisters, we don't seem to have the luxury of just worrying about our own self-perception. No, we live a life of dualities, double standards and code switch that forces our sense of self to battle with white people's perception of us on a daily basis.

We can learn, grow, educate, laugh, love, excel at life, create amazing new things for the world and even change it with our minds and hearts, but as it stands right now in this society, all that we are can be diminished and extinguished by those in power simply because of our skin tone. And sometimes, too many times, we pay for that inequality with our lives.

So we live out our time believing the best of ourselves, all the while knowing that for all of the great things that we are we are seen and treated as less than human by White America.

And what could be more of mind fuck than that? Knowing or at least trying to believe that you are amazing and worthy of life and freedom, but also knowing that someone else has the power to take that away from you and will do it at their leisure just because of who you are.

Honestly, it's hard to feel optimistic and hopeful in these times, let alone offer some words of comfort. I don't know that what I have to say will be comfortable to anyone. Then again, perhaps it's best that it not be. This isn't a comfortable situation to be in and it's certainly not a comfortable state of existence for black people to live in.

What I can say though is that the voice in our head telling us that we are amazing and that we deserve better is right. We are worthy of this life and we are worthy of the freedoms of this world. And history has shown that we are one hell of a resilient community of people. So while we are alive, let us learn if we have to, fight if we have to, rage if we have to, and make peace if we have to. Let's do whatever we can to make this world better for and equal for all races and people.

And perhaps most importantly, let us love in the face of hate and terror.

P.S. Hearing this song has helped me deal over the last day. Perhaps it can help you all deal as well.

 

Nicholas Harbor

Freelance Journalist, storyteller and blogger for 50 Shades of BLACK

www.nicholasharbor.com

www.facebook.com/NicholasHarborOfficial

www.twitter.com/Nicholas_Harbor

 

Posted on November 25, 2014 and filed under activism, race, skin tone, current events.

Her Blackness/Darkness is Her Beauty…and BEAUTY is Her Name (Part 2)

I identified as an American-Cuban African, and colorism has played an intricate role in the process of my sociocultural development. In a cultural context, colorism has a profound impact on standards of beauty. Unfortunately, that impact had influenced my family’s perception of beauty. Growing up, I was socialized to believe that people with fairer complexions, la clara or mulatta, would escape the harsh (if not entirely certain) criticisms that awaits darker complexions, la morena or negrita. I was socialized to pity darker complexions, but without much conversation about my own complexion, I took notice that I was the “morena.” Was I taught to pity the possible reality of harsh criticisms that await me? Games like “make believe” which easily taught me that I was the “morena,” and helped to socialize color. In the game’s own sorted and twisted blend, it demonstrated that I could deflect the negativisms and criticisms that should arise from colorism by seeing women of all shades attain a level of success. 

I was fortune to have younger siblings to play with. I was the oldest of my mother’s four children. Blanca and I are sixteen months apart. Growing up, we played childhood antics, like “make believe.” We pretended to be just about anyone in our “Harlem” world apartment. Our favorite “act” was pretending to be Salt –n – Peppa. My sister was Salt and I was Peppa. I don’t exactly remember how we pick the characters. All I remember was that I never really like being Peppa, but felt somewhat obligated in portraying her because she was darker and my sister was lighter. She was the dark skin rapper with a raunchy personality who was known to date even raunchier rappers. She was seemingly the least attractive person in the group, but just as successful. Nevertheless, someone had to play Peppa in order for our pretend world to work. Looking back on this “fond” childhood memory, I realized that not only did I despise that game, but that it shaped my perspective on color, and introduced an awkward self-awareness to my complexion. Games like this, although fashioned in the “spirit of fun,” fed into my lifelong struggle of identifying issues of color (colorism) within my family and community. My sister, whose name literally means white or pale in Spanish, was named after my grandmother. However, her name also represents the pale complexion she was born with. Something like life’s cruel joke on us both as a constant reminder of her fair complexion, and my misfortune of having a dark complexion.

As a community, we are taught that whites are racists. However, we exhibit prejudicial practices in color complexions. As I was considered la morenita or negrita, constantly reminded of my darker complexion, particularly from my family members, I use to think, What is it with people and color? I realized that my family had as many issues and criticisms about color as I received from my community. Over time, I learned to embrace every inch of my complexion. I even learned to appreciate the character I emulated as a child. It was a process, and it began with rejecting Eurocentric ideals of beauty and reclaiming/owning my body. I learned to embrace and love all of me. I learned to embrace the essence of my color.

General cultural beliefs were la clara or mulatta has noticeably refined attractive features: hair, eyes, an inherent or preferred sex appeal; whereas, la morena or negrita’s features are arguably more pronounced (nose and lips) and hypersexualized (ass, thighs, and hips). Within this very culture, religiosity is the dominant force that demonstrates the line of demarcation with color. It is the most significant example of colorism. Fairer complexion saints are revered as holy, beautiful, and altruistic; whereas, darker complexions are perceived as demonic, evil forces that can, if not careful, overtake the human soul. 

Images like Queens Tiye, Nefetari, Neith, and Pharaoh Hapshetsut, drastically altered my interpretation and perceptions of beauty when I learned of them as a graduate student. I wondered, How did I not know about these real life personalities who were successful? Why didn’t we “make believe” to be these figures? Regardless of what never happened, I was aware now. 

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BRIDGING THE GAP: Contemporary Realities, Our Ancestral Past, & Our Liberated Future

This is from our personal story series curated by the creator of 50 Shades of BLACK, in partnership with I Love Ancestry featuring contemporary stories of people like YOU from around the world.

We personally invite you to join us on this journey of discovery and healing. Share your stories, find your voice, speak your truths.

>>SHARE YOUR STORY<<

READ MORE STORIES

Posted on November 21, 2014 and filed under africa, Identity, personal stories, skin tone.

Her Blackness/Darkness is Her Beauty…and BEAUTY is Her Name (Part 1)

In October 2010, my second beautiful premature niece was born. As she matured, the conversation of “complexion” resurfaced, instantly drudging up images of my childhood experience on colorism. My sister began the discussion by pausing and leaning her head to the side as she noticed my niece’s ears and fingers. She turned to my mother and said, “Mami, she is going to be dark!” Suddenly overcome by disappointment, she sat quietly as my mother reexamined her features. I learned of the conversation when I visited for the first time since she was born. My mom blurted out, “She’s going to be dark.” I began staring at my niece to avoid indulging in the conversation, however, I couldn’t help thinking of my childhood. I wondered, why did my mom mention this? –why was my sister distressed over her daughter’s complexion? It baffled me! After the awkward silence settled in, I curiously asked, “why, what’s wrong with being dark?” My mother responded, “well, I just don’t want her to have the same complex you had when you were younger?!” I was never fully knew if my mother was aware of my color complex or if she knew how it emerged, until she said this. Was she even aware that my skin complex heightened because of those “make believe” games? The problem for me was that there was a fixated fear of criticisms associated with dark complexions. It was perceived as a stigma instead of a celebration. I quickly realized how detrimental my outlook was needed, and was elated for the opportunity to share my insights. 

The celebration of black skin is first taught through ancient Kemetic history. The Eurocentric narrative of beauty contradicts this history, and caused a detrimental rift in thinking. When introduced to this sacred history, my concept of beauty shifted. There was an immediate growth in awareness and appreciation for all shades of color. I began to piece myself into a history that celebrated blackness, and rejected the narrative that demonized it. My wholehearted conversion to this beautiful legacy enabled me to guide my family through an ancient concept of celebrating beauty in all shades of color, hopefully removing the stigma on colorism. Darkness is celebrated in all aspects of life. I began by explaining my perception of creation: the Creator kissed darkness to bring forth light. All life came through the cosmic uni, which is formed in darkness, and birthed through light. The most vivid demonstration of this is reenacted through childbirth. In the womb, the best force of life is created in darkness. In the labor process, this force of life meets light, but was already created perfect in darkness. In Kemetic history, mother NUT was the personality that continuously gives birth to light energy as she swallowed the sun (Ra) each night and gave birth to him by dawn the next day. She was the black force that oversaw humanity each night, and transferred her power of light through the daily birth to the sun. She represents the night sky: the midnight blackness dressed with millions of stars. Antiquated beliefs of blackness or darkness are perceived as symbols of power, prestige, and royalty. 

The conversation then shifted to dynastic periods with prominent dark skinned queens, kings, and pharaohs. After a long afternoon of conversations on color, I noticed a comfortable change in embracing the shades of color with questions that began with “Sooooo, how could we …? How should we…?” My final comment that night on this topic was that her blackness is her beauty. 

As we approach her 4th birthday, my niece recognizes herself as a princess, a queen in training. Her dainty personality appears to have no problems with identifying herself as a “brown” crayon. She is aware that the “brown” crayon is necessary to the bunch, and is keenly aware when it is missing. As she continues to mature, we know that her concept of color will change as well. My hope is that my family will have the confidence to teach her that her darkness is royalty, and that she will have the courage to immediately reject the negativisms that we are socialized to believe.

-Rayshana Black

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BRIDGING THE GAP: Contemporary Realities, Our Ancestral Past, & Our Liberated Future

This is from our personal story series curated by the creator of 50 Shades of BLACK, in partnership with I Love Ancestry featuring contemporary stories of people like YOU from around the world.

We personally invite you to join us on this journey of discovery and healing. Share your stories, find your voice, speak your truths.

>>SHARE YOUR STORY<<

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Posted on October 29, 2014 and filed under africa, art, family, Identity, personal stories, skin tone.

Raven-Symoné Responds To Bullies Over Race and Sexuality Comments Backlash

Raven-Symoné's lovability dropped drastically in the eyes of many of her black fans over the past month after she told Oprah Winfrey in a "Where Are They Now" interview that she didn't want to be labeled as "African-American" or "Gay."

 "I don’t want to be labeled ‘gay.’ I want to be labeled a human who loves human. I’m tired of being labelled. I’m an American! I’m not an African-American. I’m an American," she said, later adding, I’m an American. And that’s a colorless person — because we are all people. I have lots of things running through my veins."

Since making the statements, Raven has received a barrage of criticism and hateful comments from angry fans, calling her everything from a race traitor to an Uncle Tom.

Earlier this month, Raven tried to clarify her statements, explaining that she never said she doesn't identify as black. However, the criticism furiously continued. Now, Raven has penned an open letter on her Facebook page addressing the ongoing backlash against her.

Although I don't agree with Raven's initial interview comments - you can read about my thoughts here - I do agree with her that the issue of race and blackness in these modern times is something that needs to be openly discussed and examined, and I think she has a right to voice her opinions freely.

We black people all might have similar skin tones and hair, but that doesn't mean we all see race in the same way, and we don't at all have to either. Clearly Raven's opinion differs from many in the black community but from gauging the many conversations online and in my own personal life, it's clear that she's not alone.

And it's also clear that the labels within the LGBT community don't fit or appeal to all people who are same gender loving, which is an issue that has been brought up throughout the years by many people who are SGL.

Identity is a major deal and though our conception of it is partially based on the outside world it is still something that should be appointed and claimed by oneself, not placed upon an individual by another group.

Instead of attacking, bullying and trying to silence Raven, it would be best if we as a people opened up an honest dialogue about diversity within our black and LGBT communities and try to see things from all different perspectives. Perhaps then we can truly find unity in our diversity as opposed to trying to force it through intimidation and silence.

Nicholas Harbor

Freelance Journalist, storyteller and blogger for 50 Shades of BLACK

www.nicholasharbor.com

www.facebook.com/NicholasHarborOfficial

www.twitter.com/Nicholas_Harbor

Posted on October 27, 2014 and filed under Identity, LGBT, skin tone, sexuality, race.

Raven-Symoné & Race: Can Black People Afford To See Themselves As Colorless Americans?

Black Flag.jpg

When it comes to America, the issue of race is always ever present. But blackness and the experience of being black have been a topic at the forefront of our nation for the past several months thanks to high-profile police attacks, the much talked about New Black ideology and commentary about blackness from artists like Pharrell and Childish Gambino.

This weekend, Raven-Symone found herself at the center of that conversation when she appeared on OWN's "Where Are They Now?" and spoke with Oprah about her sexuality and her race. Though many fans likely were unsure of what the typically tight-lipped star would say about her identity, she shocked many black and LGBT people when she told Oprah that she doesn't want to be labeled as "African-American" or "Gay."

Raven: In that topic of dating and love, I knew when I was like 12. I was looking at everything. I don’t need language, I don’t need a categorizing statement for it. I don’t want to be labeled ‘gay.’ I want to be labeled a human who loves human.

I’m tired of being labelled. I’m an American! I’m not an African-American. I’m an American.

OprahOh Lord, girl! Don’t set this Twitter on fire. What did you just say? Stop, stop stop the tape right now!

Raven: I will say this: I don’t know where my roots go to. I don’t know how far back they go. I can’t go on…you know… I don’t know how far back and I don’t know what country in Africa I’m from. But I do know that my roots are in Louisiana. I’m an American. And that’s a colorless person — because we are all people. I have lots of things running through my veins.

OprahYou know you’re gonna get a lot of flack for saying you’re not African-American. You know that, right? So I want you to say what you really mean by that.

RavenI don’t label myself. What I mean by that is I’m an American. I have darker skin. I have a nice, interesting grade of hair. I connect with Caucasian, I connect with Asian, I connect with Black, I connect with Indian. I connect with each culture.

OprahYou are a melting pot in one body.

RavenAren’t we all? Isn’t that what America is supposed to be? That’s what it’s supposed to be. I personally feel that way.

Hearing Raven say that personally came as a shock to me and when I wound up discussing the video with a couple of my friends, I found myself in a pecular place, trying to both defend and define blackness while trying to find a connection with Raven's words.

On one hand, I can understand why Raven, as well as many other black and gay and bisexual people, would want to do away with labels.

Labels are difficult to live with when you're not a part of the favored majority and your particular labels come with negative connotations or bring about invasive and insensitive questions from those outside of your community.

Who wants to have to live with a label that's not respected by their peers? And I imagine that's quite difficult when you're rich, black and famous and most of your peers in entertainment are rich and white, and yet you, despite having climbed the financial ladder, are still subject to the same issues, harassment, and questions that every other black person is subject to. I imagine it's even harder when your peers don't even understand your struggles or culture as a black person.

However, simply choosing to cast those labels out of your personal life doesn't solve the root of the problem associated with those labels, which in this instance is racism and homophobia.

Too often people of darker skin tones are stereotyped and vilified in the eyes of the world, and they're oppressed, attacked and violated for it. Even worse, the racism in America has become so refined that it doesn't even have to be expressed through violence to exist. These days, racism lives mainly through the disparity of treatment and opportunites between darker skinned and lighter skinned people.

As it stands, blackness in America comes with the reality that we never come to the table with a blank slate. Our label, our slate, always comes with negative comments, thoughts and connotations. 

In all honesty, I wish that we as black people could just wipe our slate clean and be seen and treated as equals by the rest of the world. And though getting rid of the label of African-American may bring about changes when it comes to our own selves, it doesn't necessarily change the way the rest of the world, mainly white people, see us.

So what good does it do to throw away titles like African-American and Gay when the treatment of these two communities will still be the same?

What good does it do to promote the idea that America is colorless when the reality is that America is full of people of color with rich histories, lives and cultures that far too often are mocked, appropriated or made invisible?

And what good does it do to be a black public figure that is discarding the label of African-American when so many black people in the lower classes don't have the same social and economic privilege to do such an act. 

Perhaps I’m being too narrow minded and perhaps I’m just stuck to the old ways of thinking within the black community. 

But in my eyes, the harsh and inescapable truth is that It does no good for black people to throw away the title of African-American for the sake of being just a "colorless American" when the people who run America, which is white people, remind us every day that we are black. And that that blackness, as we've seen in the latest police attacks and cover ups, is something that is seen by too many white people as something less than human.

 

Nicholas Harbor

Freelance Journalist, storyteller and blogger for 50 Shades of BLACK

www.nicholasharbor.com

www.facebook.com/NicholasHarborOfficial

www.twitter.com/Nicholas_Harbor

Posted on October 8, 2014 and filed under community, Identity, race, skin tone.

50 Shades of Black: Viola Davis Discusses Breaking Through as a Dark Skinned Leading Lady in New ABC Show

Viola Davis, who stars in “How to Get Away With Murder,” which debuts on Sept. 25 on ABC.  GRAEME MITCHELL FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES

Viola Davis, who stars in “How to Get Away With Murder,” which debuts on Sept. 25 on ABC.

GRAEME MITCHELL FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES

In a recent New York Times article Viola Davis kept it all the way real as she discussed the liberation she feels in having a lead role as a sexy, smart, and complex character in Shonda Rhimes' newest TV show "How to Get Away With Murder".

“How to Get Away With Murder,” which includes Shonda Rhimes among its executive producers, will be shown on Thursday nights after Rhimes’s two hit series, “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal,” a generous lead-in that the network hopes will result in an instant hit. But that will depend, in part, on whether viewers embrace Davis — “a woman of color, of a certain age and a certain hue,” as she says — in her new capacity. “I don’t see anyone on TV like me in a role like this. And you can’t even mention Halle Berry or Kerry Washington,” she told me, referring to two African-American stars with notably lighter skin.
— Amy Wallace, New York Times

Read this complete article to hear Davis discuss Hollywood's reasoning for not casting more black lead actors, the ability of Shonda Rhimes to weave multicultural dimensions into her shows without creating caricatures, and the impact of Taraji P. Henson, Denzel Washington, and how wearing her hair in an afro was like "stepping into myself" for the first time.

COMPLETE ARTICLE

Posted on September 23, 2014 and filed under Body Image, film, Identity, personal stories, race, skin tone.

Is There Such A Thing As "The New Black"?

Source: Mizzou News

Source: Mizzou News

For years now, I've been hearing the phrase Millenials or Black Millenials when it comes to the young generation of the black community and our way of navigating the modern world. But recently I've begun hearing less of the term Millenials and more of the phrase "The New Black." 

The first time I can actually recall hearing the phrase and having it sink in for thought is when Pharrell appeared on "Oprah's Prime" and explained his definition of what The New Black is, which he says he's at the forefront of and embodies.

"The New Black doesn't blame other races for our issues. The New Black dreams and realizes that it's not pigmentation: it's a mentality and it's either going to work for you or it's going to work against you. And you've got to pick the side you're going to be on," says Pharrell

"I recognize that there are issues. We get judged on our skin....I don't allow that to run my life. I don't live my life trying to be black. What I do is, I nurture my curiosity in music. I'm proud to be what I am. The New Black is a mentality. You don't do things because you're black. You do things because you're genuinely interested in something," he adds.

After hearing this, I remember trying to soak in the whole interview and not having time to fully process those statements.  But what I do remember vividly was how offended most of my friends were about his statement that The New Black doesn't blame other races for our issues, which seemed to completely overlook the effects of slavery and the state of oppression, poverty and violence that black people still live in - especially the ones who aren't rich and have a "Happy" image.

While I applaud the idea of instilling pride and creativity and self-love in my fellow black people, I also know that's only half the work. It's not about just changing the mentality of black people; it's also about changing the way the rest of the world sees, values and treats us. Because it's fair to say that many of the black men and women who have been victims of racism, inequality and (police) violence thought well of themselves, but that didn't stop them from being oppressed or extinguished by racist people.

It wasn't until I heard the phrase brought up again in a recent Hot 97 interview with Childish Gambino that I heard the phrase, or at least the concept, brought up in a way that seemed to resonate with me. While chatting with host Peter Rosenberg, Gambino talked about the racism he still endures despite his stardom and his so-called non-threatening appearance.

"Being young and black in America is schizophrenic. You have to kind of change who you are a little bit all the time to for people to even respect. Like, for people to even understand you. I have to hold myself a certain way and wear a certain thing to get a cab, and sometimes I may not even get a cab," Gambino explained, later adding that he's been threatened with violence by cops, even though he's famous.

“That’s the thing,” he said, speaking about white people being in places of power. “People feel like that’s an attack on something. It’s like ‘I get it. I understand. You guys are in charge. You don’t want to lose the power. I totally get it’…I’m not hating on that. I totally understand. I get it. I’m just saying there’s got to be a sense of balance. Same thing with cops. It’s like ‘I get it. You’re putting your lives in danger also. But what am I supposed to do when a cop who’s a bad person does something? Who am I supposed to tell? I would call you guys, but at the same time I know what’s gonna happen.’”

Despite the overwhelming racism, Gambino went on to say that Black people are the cultural tastemakers and that we need to understand our value in our capability to shift the world.

"We are cultural influences. That's what black kids are. They really change the culture of not just America, but the world," said Gambino. "The cultural stuff, someone can take ownership of it really easily. Like, "Or Nah?" somebody can trademark that really easily. All of our stuff comes from what we can do...and then it gets appropriated. That's kind of our job, we just have to quantify the worth of it."

However, Gambino went on to dismiss the idea of calling our young culture The New Black, explaining that naming it would just lead to appropriation.

"Like I would like to think I’m a leader of whatever movement is happening. People call it ‘new black.’ People call it whatever, but I don’t want to name it cause it’s bs to name it. As soon as it gets named that’s when you start marketing it. And it’s like ‘Ah, this is hipster.’ Cause hipster was cool until it became hipster...And then it became monetized. Same thing with Hip Hop. So, whatever this thing is. Whatever’s happening. Like whenever Jaden Smith tells me he’s like ‘I’m real excited for whatever’s happening.’ He can feel it. I can feel it.”

Later on, Gambino appeared on "The Breakfast Club" and talked about race again. While chatting with host Charlamagne Tha God, Gambino explained his controversial Twitter poem about Mike Brown's shooting, in which he lamented the violence and racism that all black people face, and said he wished he could be "big and white" to overcome such hardships

Although Charlamagne argued that black people focusing on inequality and seeing white people as being somehow above them was instills an inferiority complex in us all, Gambino responded that his words are not really about wanting to be white, but about wanting the freedom that for so long has only been given to those with white privilege.

“Because whiteness is blankness,” the rapper said. “It’s because they look at it as a blank slate. Like when you come in, you can be anything. When I walk in even if I have a bowtie, they might be like ‘Is he Muslim?’ They’re not going to do that with a white dude. White people are a blank slate. We are not. People bring stuff to it because there’s not a lot of us, so they only judge us on the seven or whatever they know. So, that’s what I’m trying to say. I want to be a blank slate. As a black person, I constantly have to know what a person is assuming about me. That’s what I’m saying.”

I can't necessarily claim to be part of The New Black. I'm not sure that such a phrase resonates with me or honors the black men and women who came before me. But what does resonate with me is Gambino's honesty about racial issues in America and his belief in himself and other black people that we do have the power to create art and change the world in the process. That we do have the freedom to be interested in whatever we want, whether it be considered black or white or alien or whatever. That mindet speaks to the geek in me, the writer in me, gayness of me, and the blackness of me. 

At the end of the day, whether you're a young or older black person, it's safe to say that all we've ever wanted is freedom to be both infinite within ourselves and have an infinite amount of possibilities and chances, like everybody else, in the real world. That idea goes beyond phrases and time; that simply speaks to being human. Hopefully, with each passing generation of black people, we make our way closer and closer to that goal of equality in freedom.

Nicholas Harbor

Freelance Journalist, storyteller and blogger for 50 Shades of BLACK

www.nicholasharbor.com

www.facebook.com/NicholasHarborOfficial

www.twitter.com/Nicholas_Harbor

Posted on September 13, 2014 and filed under community, Identity, race, skin tone.

Being Black and Finding a New Queerness at Dragon*Con

When people think of queerness, they usually think of the word in regards to sexuality and gender expression as opposed to its original definition of unusually different or odd. For me, that's what I did until I had a conversation with the 50 Shades of BLACK creator, Carlton Mackey, about this past weekend's Dragon*Con convention.

While being asked about the geek experience as a black gay man, he described the event as queer. I'd honestly never thought to describe a convention of geeks, freaks and gamers as queer. But if you think about Dragon*Con, really, there isn't much around that's as fundamentally queer as that.

For one weekend in Atlanta, Labor Day Weekend, over 100,000 people flood the city for NASCAR racing, football, Black Pride Weekend, and, of course, Dragon*Con, the biggest sci-fi gaming convention in the Southeast region.

It's quite a sight to see as the jocks, the gays, the trans, bisexuals, the drag queens, and the geeks all come out into the streets at once and paint the town a bright rainbow palette of diversity.

And that's just on the streets. Once you go inside the convention, you're immersed inside a world where being a regular human is just an option, and the simple act of cosplaying can transform you into any race, any gender, any species, or any object that you want to be.

But despite such diversity in creatures, styles, and looks, what many people outside of the geek culture still don't seem to see is the growing number of black people who are unabashed geeks and love comic books, cartoons, video games, manga, and anime.  

For many of us black geeks, we are a different version of queer. We are anomalies both in and outside of our race who embrace blackness, but also embrace being infinitely more; as much as our fantasy-loving, child-like imaginations can allow. 

And for me and my crew of bleeks (black geeks) and blerds (black nerds), a crew which we've given the awesome title Sasuke Hate, conventions like Dragon*Con are nothing short of an indulgence in that new queerness, that new anomalous existence. It's a place that, while not devoid of social issues surrounding race and queerness, bends them in ways that allows for a new way of seeing the world.

Walking the lobbies and bars of the Hilton, the Hyatt, the Marriott and the Westin, it felt amazing to see so many geeks out and about in the real world, drinking, dancing and posing for row after row of cameras in their cosplay creations. 

Though diversity is praised at these conventions, it'd be foolish to dismiss the fact that it's been a struggle to find diverse black representation in the world of comics, anime and gaming. Although characters like Storm, Blade, Black Panther, Miles Morales/Spider-Man, and Spawn have paved the way for black mainstream superheroes, we still have a ways to go when it comes to seeing these superheroes take center stage and lead films and TV shows. It's can be even harder to find well-rounded and respectable representations of black people overseas in Japan, where black anime characters are often played to stereotypes based around hip-hop and 70s Blaxploitation.

For that reason, and because it feels damn good to see ourselves as authentic and powerful, there's an extra sense of pride taken when we bleeks can cosplay as black characters and show that we can be superheroes, villains and all-around cool characters as well . And my friends definitely represented that idea to the fullest as they cosplayed as iconic black superheroes like Green Lantern, Aqualad and Static Shock and got praise from geeks of every color. 

But race isn't the only thing that's skewed and warped by these conventions. Ideas of gender are played with and twisted as well. When walking through crowds of cosplayers, it's absolutely normal to geeks of all races gender bending to their hearts desire. At Dragon*Con alone, my friends and I saw men as Wonder Woman and the Sailor Scouts, or women dressed as Deadpool and The Flash. Sometimes it was simply bold expressions of sexuality as women dressed in nothing but body paint and underwear, and men donned their own tiny undies and oiled themselves up to show off their bodies.

Truly, it was an anything goes kind of affair.

But no place is a paradise, and as with any convention, there were times when the racial issues of the regular world reared their ugly head.

For us, that moment came not while doing anything particularly geeky, but instead during Saturday night's hotel rave. Not to toot my own horn or the horn of my crew too much, but being the charismatic and fun-seeking people that we are, we happened to dominate an entire side of the dance floor and had nearly half the crowd circling us and trying to dance with us as we grooved, twerked, bounced, and rocked to good ol' hip-hop music. But after perhaps 15 minutes of that dance floor dominance, the DJ abruptly changed the music to softer pop and dance thusly killed our dance circle. Although the DJ could've simply wanted to change the mood and allow for every genre of music to shine, for us it seemed weird that any DJ would want to kill the vibe of a raucous party. For us, it came off as a small reminder that we can't be too black, too unabashed and too in control of the scene. 

As that instance shows, perhaps there are always limits to how queer an event can be and how high those usually on the bottom can soar, but as minorities, it's no unfamiliar script to us. 

As bleeks, though, there's still so much to be said still for the freedom that's enjoyed just taking ownership in expressing different versions of blackness, different versions of gender and sexuality, and different versions of self. 

For us, the new frontier of identity expression lies in the realm of fantasy. Because, as another character, we find ways to tap into parts of ourselves that we may never know or never express. More importantly, we find ways to be bigger than the way society sees us....embracing our blackness, embracing queerness, while at the same time being bigger than it all. 

Nicholas Harbor

Freelance Journalist, storyteller and blogger for 50 Shades of BLACK

www.nicholasharbor.com

www.facebook.com/NicholasHarborOfficial

www.twitter.com/Nicholas_Harbor

Posted on September 6, 2014 and filed under community, Identity, LGBT, race, skin tone.

50 Shades of Black Hosts Opening Day of Pan African Film Festival - Atlanta

It gives us great pleasure to announce that we will be hosting the Opening Day screenings of the Pan African Film Festival on August 7, 2014 at the Historic Plaza Theater in Atlanta, GA.

As hosts, 50 Shades of Black will introduce each of the day’s screenings, lead engaging Q&A discussions after each film, and will be present with other sponsors and actor Danny Glover at the red carpet screening of “Supremacy”.  Throughout the weekend, 50 Shades of Black will also be conducting exclusive interviews with some of the festival’s biggest stars.

Beginning with the very first film “From Above”, a Shakespearean tragic love story between African and Native American main characters,  to the final film of the day Elza, [a visually beautiful tale that confronts the issue of “colorism” in Guadeloupe (and in most colonized societies), where internal race prejudices often hinge on light skin versus dark skin; “bad” hair versus “good” hair] each of the Opening Day hosted films connect directly with the mission of 50 Shades of Black and highlight the work we are doing with some of our key partners across the country such as I Love Ancestry, National Congress of Black American Indians, Jazz WCLK, and Locs Revolution.

Screening 12:15pm - William Ward (Danny Glover) dives under the gloomy waters of his memory to recall the love story of his life with Venus, a girl belonging to the Lighting Clan, a peculiar Native American family living in Arkansas with a strange communion with electricity.

Thanks to the introduction from our partners at&nbsp;  I Love Ancestry  , Yvonne Rosegarden will be joining&nbsp;  50 Shades of BLACK  &nbsp;tomorrow for a post film conversation of "FROM ABOVE" at the&nbsp;  Pan African Film &amp; Arts Festival &nbsp; (Atlanta) [Screening at 12:1  5pm]  "I am really looking forward to viewing and participating on a panel to discuss this film that spotlights the seldom discussed relationships between Americans of Native and African descent---AND spreading a LOVE VIBRATION with 5-count hugs at the same time! See you there--please share!" -Yvonne Rosegarden

Thanks to the introduction from our partners at I Love Ancestry, Yvonne Rosegarden will be joining 50 Shades of BLACK tomorrow for a post film conversation of "FROM ABOVE" at the Pan African Film & Arts Festival (Atlanta) [Screening at 12:15pm]

"I am really looking forward to viewing and participating on a panel to discuss this film that spotlights the seldom discussed relationships between Americans of Native and African descent---AND spreading a LOVE VIBRATION with 5-count hugs at the same time! See you there--please share!" -Yvonne Rosegarden


It is PAFF’s goal to present and showcase the broad spectrum of Black creative works, particularly those that reinforce positive images and help destroy negative stereotypes. We believe film and art can lead to better understanding and foster communication between peoples of diverse cultures, races, and lifestyles, while at the same time serve as a vehicle to initiate dialogue on the important issues of our times.

Directly in line with the festival’s mission, 50 Shades of Black is the multimedia platform for exploring the complex relationship between race, skin tone, sexuality, and the role each play in the formation of identity. 50 Shades of Black, its creator Carlton Mackey, and its team has collaborated with visual artists, scholars, and the general public to also cultivate a deeper understanding of what diversity truly means with particular focus on the spectrum of manifestations of and understandings of "blackness".


Screening at 2:50pm - A documentary that examines with candor and humor Black women's issues regarding hair and self-esteem, and advocates for the acceptance of all hairstyle choices.  


Screening at 4:50pm - Titus is the story of a virtuoso African-American jazz musician whose damaged soul has brought him to the status of a nobody. Living in London, far from home, he’s wasting away, estranged from his one true love, his vintage alto sax. All hope looks lost until a visitor arrives, Jessica, the daughter he abandoned as a baby. Over the course of a day and night together, old demons are laid to rest and new ones are stirred, and for one last time the future is back in Titus’ hands. The poetic and soulful story of one man’s final shot at redemption – when all he’s ever known is hell.

Rivablue will be joining 50 Shades of Black tomorrow for post film conversation of Titus as she reflects on the film and the global influence of Jazz. &nbsp;Rivablue can be heard on&nbsp;  www.wclk.com  &nbsp;mon-fri 7pm-10pm.&nbsp;

Rivablue will be joining 50 Shades of Black tomorrow for post film conversation of Titus as she reflects on the film and the global influence of Jazz.  Rivablue can be heard on www.wclk.com mon-fri 7pm-10pm. 


A young Parisian woman of Caribbean descent returns to her native island of Guadeloupe looking for the father she has never known. This visually beautiful tale confronts the issue of “colorism” in Guadeloupe (and in most colonized societies), where internal race prejudices often hinge on light skin versus dark skin; “bad” hair versus “good” hair. 

Screening 10:10pm

JOIN US OPENING DAY!  PURCHASE YOUR TICKETS IN ADVANCE HERE

or at the Box Office Window - Plaza Theater 1049 Ponce De Leon Ave N // Atlanta, GA 30306 // 404.873.1939

 

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Posted on August 2, 2014 and filed under africa, art, film, press, race, religion and culture, sexuality, skin tone.

Seriously, Why Do We Fetishize Asian Women?

My geek friends and I regulary share gifs, photos and videos of things we find interesting on the web with each other on Facebook - because, well, geeking out at work is really the only way to go about getting a check. And being fans of Japanese anime and manga, it came as no surprise that one of my friends came across a video called "Why Guys Like Asian Girls" and shared it with the rest of the crew. 

In the video, actress and filmmaker Anna Akana vents candidly (with the most splendid potty mouth) about her disdain for "yellow fever" i.e. way men of other races, namely white men, exoticize and fetishize her just because she's Asian. 

Now, as a black gay man, I figure when most of my melenated brothers and sisters are talking about being reduced to fetishes and tokens, they mean that the perpetrator is, well, someone white. But that clearly isn't the case because a few of my geeky black guy friends just couldn't seem to understand why Anna had such a problem with so many men only liking her, and so many other Asian women, just because of the color of their skin.

And it's not just my friends who seem to have this sexual fantasy of Asian women. I've heard fantasies like this from men all of my life, and as Anna notes, never have any of those fantasies been based on anything other than the racialized idea of the woman as opposed to who she actually is as a person. 

And honestly, I don't see how any Asian woman, or any woman for that matter, would be flattered by the idea that a man only wants her because she talks with a baby voice, acts childlike and dresses as a school girl, perhaps barely speaks English, enjoys being dominated both in the bedroom (or while giving Handy J's in a spa) and in her life in general. Basically, she just has to be nothing more than a doll-like slave that's only good for sex, cooking and naughty massages.

Besides laughing my ass off at Anna's hilarious commentary, I also felt empathy for Anna's story because her complaint sounds exactly like the anger and frustration we black men feel when we're reduced to tokens and Mandingo sex warriors in the eyes of other races. Personally, I can't tell you how many times I've tried to talk to a guy of another race (White, Middle Eastern, Hispanic, Asian, etc.) online and one of the first things they tell me is "I'm really into black guys" or "I bet you have a big dick" or "I bet you have a big black ass" or even something as extreme as "I want you to come ravish/dominate/rape me."

Or, sadly, if they don't like me or I turn them down, they call me a "nigger."

Basically, to them, I'm nothing more than a hyper-masculine, ghetto-booty-having, big-black-dick-swiinging sex beast ready to ravish any man in the bed, Or I have to be the sumissive black boy that they can tame in the bed just so they can feel proud and mighty about having conquered the big black beast.

Seriousy, does the idea of living out that fetish or the Asian fetish sound appealing to you? Well, it sure as hell isn't fun when people try to force it on you.

Unforunately, it's not just the mindsets of other races that people of color have to deal with when it comes to being fetishized. People of all races seem to do this to each other based on the ill-informerd, reductive, and, dare I say, fucked up stereotypes running rampant in the media about all of the different communities of people.  

Clearly, everybody across the globe has their own personal hangups when it comes to race and sex, being a citizen of the world makes that pretty impossible to avoid. But one way to diminish that ignorance and racism is to listen to the stories of other people and be aware of how our words and mindsets affect them as well. And to start, I suggest you watch Anna's video above because it's not only thought-provoking but it's also freaking hilarious and witty.

Nicholas Harbor

Freelance Journalist, storyteller and blogger for 50 Shades of BLACK

www.nicholasharbor.com

www.facebook.com/NicholasHarborOfficial

www.twitter.com/Nicholas_Harbor

 

Posted on July 30, 2014 and filed under race, sexuality, skin tone.

Eastern Europe's first black mayor opens up to 50 Shades of Black in Exclusive Interview

Eastern Europe's first black mayor opens up to Ross Oscar Knight about race, skin tone, gender equality, family and politics.

Eastern Europe's first black mayor opens up to Ross Oscar Knight about race, skin tone, gender equality, family and politics.

Today Ross Oscar Knight interviewed Mayor Peter Bossman of Piran, Slovenia. Slovenia, part of the former Yugoslavia, was the first country to gain its independence in 1991. Now part of the European Union, the country received ample media attention after Bossman was elected its first black mayor in 2010. The interview details the story of how Bossman fled Ghana in 1977 and eventually settled in Slovenia to become a doctor. Bossman and his wife are parents of two biracial daughters. During the discussion Bossman speaks of pride in his African heritage and how he has balanced his identity with Slovenian culture. 

More on this story from 50 Shades of Black.

All Light Skinned People Look Alike

Sister at the Farmer's Market? Are we related?

On my weekly retreat to the farmer's market to collect fresh fruits and vegetables, I heard a woman whispering behind me. "Wow. He has pretty eyes. I bet those two are brother and sister." I turned around and saw this woman (Jocelyn) standing with some of her relatives. We smiled casually and then shared a defining moment that many light-skinned African Americans face. For some reason, if your eyes are blue and your hair is red/brown/blonde and you have African American features then we are all supposed to be related? Its like we are an anomaly or something. 

I'll admit, I had Jocelyn take off her glasses so that I could examine her face further. We share lots of the same features but we are not related. I found out that Jocelyn was young enough to be my daughter! 

So then we did a test. I selected two darker-skinned individuals at random with similar features and I said, "You must be related." They asked me why would I think that. I told them because their skin tone was similar and I noticed features that looked generational. The two people rolled their eyes and went separate ways. Jocelyn and I got a laugh out of that.

- Ross Oscar Knight
(Director of International Initiatives)



Posted on July 24, 2014 and filed under Identity, personal stories, race, skin tone.

World Vitiligo Day: From Michael Jackson to Winnie Harlow

Clip of Winnie Harlow from YouTube Video &nbsp;- Vitiligo: A Skin Condition not a Life Changer

Clip of Winnie Harlow from YouTube Video  - Vitiligo: A Skin Condition not a Life Changer

June 25th was World Vitiligo Day.  It also happened to be the day the world reflected on the loss of the person with the most well known case of vitiligo -a skin condition also shared by roughly 100 million people.

For some, vitiligo can take an emotional toll...not exclusively because of the condition itself, but because of 'weird adults with malicious ignorance'.  In the recent CNN article titled World Vitiligo Day: Skin disease takes emotional toll, broadcaster Lee Thomas reflects:

"It's not really the ignorance," Thomas said about the lack of awareness surrounding vitiligo. "It's the malicious ignorance. Adults are weird."

He remembers playing a "visual tennis match" with a man in his office. The man would stare at Thomas, then as soon as Thomas looked at him, the man looked away. They volleyed back and forth until Thomas told him, "It's OK if you want to look."

He went through what he calls an "angry spotted-guy" period when he would give menacing looks to those who stared at him.

While visual tennis matches may have also plagued the early life of the young lady below, she has taken these matches all the way to center court.  ACE!

Check out the video below of 19-year-old Chantelle Brown-Young, who goes by the name Winnie Harlow.  This video was filmed when she was 17 years old.  Now, Ms. Brown will be competing in the next season of America's Next Top Model.

Thank you Winnie for bearing witness to the fact that we are BEAUTIFUL IN EVERY SHADE.

Rebecca Knight by Creative Silence for BEAUTIFUL IN EVERY SHADE. &nbsp; Order Shirts HERE

Rebecca Knight by Creative Silence for BEAUTIFUL IN EVERY SHADE.  Order Shirts HERE



Posted on July 1, 2014 and filed under Body Image, Identity, personal stories, skin tone.

Radmilla Cody: Dine' (Navajo) & Nahilii (African American) Woman

Bridging the Gap with Radmilla Cody of Navajo and African heritage, and her Grandma Dorothy, Navajo (RIP)

Bridging the Gap with Radmilla Cody of Navajo and African heritage, and her Grandma Dorothy, Navajo (RIP)

...To reaffirm the statement on the choosing of my identity, I come from two beautiful cultures which I have embraced, bridged, balanced, and identify with. I am proud to be who I am as a Dine’ (Navajo) and Nahilii (African American) woman.
Hozho’, , & blessings...
— Radmilla Cody

Inspiring Radmilla is the award winner of the Record of the Year for her song "Shi Keyah Songs for the People".

:: RADMILLA CODY ::
With an angelic voice of bluebirds singing, Radmilla Cody, traditional Navajo recording artist, Indie Award Winner and two-time Native American Award Nominee continues to maintain Navajo culture by recording music that the Diné elders can be proud of and that children sing with pride.

She is of the Tla'a'schi'i' (Red-Orche-on-Cheek) clan and is born for the African-Americans. Radmilla is the 46th Miss Navajo Nation from 1997-98. Born and raised in the beautiful and picturesque plateaus of the Navajo Nation, Radmilla Cody's childhood consisted of herding sheep on foot and horseback, carding and spinning wool, and searching late into the night with her grandmother for lost sheep and their lambs. 

The highlight of her sheep herding days was standing in the sheep corral singing at the top of her lungs with the sheep and goats as her audience. "All that mattered at that time was the moment of living a dream," says Radmilla about her early life, which today has become a reality for the young musician. A survivor of domestic violence, Radmilla uses her personal experiences to advocate strongly against the epidemic of violence. 

It is an issue she has become very passionate about. As a biracial person she attempts to communicate positive messages about her dual identity to biracial or multiracial children who still bear the brunt of prejudice. 

Radmilla Cody is of the Tlaaschii (Red Bottom People) born for Nahillii (African American) and has traveled internationally to Kenya, South America, Japan, Germany, Netherlands, Russia, and Italy. 

She has earned a BS in Public Relations from Northern Arizona University and is pursuing a MA in Sociology. She was the 46th Miss Navajo and is the subject of “Hearing Radmilla”, a documentary produced and directed by Angela Webb. 

Radmilla is a domestic violence advocate and founder of “Strong Spirit…Life is Beautiful not Abusive” campaign which addresses teen dating violence. Her previous recordings for Canyon Records include Seed of Life, Spirit of a Woman and Precious Friends.

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BRIDGING THE GAP: Contemporary Realities, Our Ancestral Past, & Our Liberated Future 

This is the 15th of a weekly series called BRIDGING THE GAP curated by I Love Ancestry on 50 Shades of BLACK featuring stories of inspiring people and ancestors who contributed to the struggle for freedom.

50 Shades of Black will also be curating a weekly series of stories on I Love Ancestry featuring contemporary stories of people like YOU from around the world. We personally invite you to join us on this journey of discovery and healing.

Each week we will feature a story of a historical figure & one of YOUR stories about your ancestors, your heritage, and/or your coming to understand and celebrate your OWN identity.

Share your stories, find your voice, speak your truths.

SHARE YOUR STORY:
http://www.50shadesofblack.com/share-stories

 

Posted on June 27, 2014 and filed under africa, family, Identity, personal stories, music, race, religion and culture, skin tone.